Pharmacist holding two pill bottles

Vyvanse Vs. Adderall – What is the Difference?

Authored by The Rx Advocates, / Medically Reviewed by Dr. Conor Sheehy, PharmD, BCPS
Last Updated: August 12, 2021

Vyvanse and Adderall are both medications that can be used to treat Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in adults and children. They are very similar to one another, but there are some differences between them too.

Doctors are careful to choose the correct medication to treat ADHD in their patients. Either of these medications may be prescribed to you or your child with this diagnosis. It is important to understand how both Vyvanse and Adderall work in the body, their side effects, and their effectiveness.

 

What is Vyvanse?

Vyvanse is a medication that may be prescribed to treat ADHD, although it is also used to treat binge eating disorder in some people as well. Its active ingredient is lisdexamfetamine, which is an inactive drug that the body converts into dextroamphetamine. Dextroamphetamine is one of the active ingredients in Adderall.

Vyvanse comes in both capsules and chewable pills. Dosage amounts range from 10 mg to 60 mg for both, and there are 70 mg capsules available as well. Typically, doctors will start their patients on 30 mg per day and then increase the dose until they achieve the desired effects.

Vyvanse Side Effects

Many of the most common side effects of Vyvanse will go away with continued use. They are typically mild and may include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Weight loss
  • Headaches
  • Diarrhea
  • Insomnia
  • Stomach pain
  • A decreased appetite
  • Mood changes
  • Irritability

Some more serious side effects can occur with Vyvanse as well. If you experience any of the following, they should immediately be reported to your doctor. You may need to be switched to a different medication. The severe side effects of Vyvanse can include:

  • Heart and blood vessel problems, such as a faster heart rate, increased blood pressure, heart attack, or stroke
  • Problems with blood circulation
  • Mental health problems, such as mania or psychosis
  • Serotonin syndrome
  • Allergic reactions
  • Slowed growth in children

 

What is Adderall?

Adderall is another prescription medication that doctors can use to treat patients with ADHD. This medication may also be used to treat narcolepsy, which is a sleep disorder. 

It includes a combination of the active ingredients amphetamine and dextroamphetamine salts. Both are central nervous system stimulants, and both act on dopamine and norepinephrine. These are two chemicals in the brain that are associated with symptoms of ADHD.

Adderall may be prescribed in one of two forms. It comes in immediate-release tablets and extended-release capsules. Immediate-release tablets are available in dosages of 5 mg, 7.5 mg, 10 mg, 12.5 mg, 15 mg, 20 mg and 30 mg. 

Extended-release capsules are available in 10 mg, 15 mg, 20 mg, 25 mg and 30 mg. Doctors typically start children on 5-10 mg once per day and adults on 10-20 mg once per day.

Adderall is the only stimulant medication that has been FDA-approved to treat ADHD in children between the ages of 3 and 5. Their starting dose is 2.5 mg per day which is achieved by splitting a 5mg tablet in half.

Adderall Side Effects

Adderall does have side effects, which, like Vyvanse, should go away with continued use of the medication. Some of the more common side effects of Adderall include:

  • A decreased appetite
  • Stomach pain
  • Dizziness
  • Anxiety
  • Weight loss
  • Headaches
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Dry mouth
  • Constipation
  • Nausea

Other, more severe side effects have been known to occur in people who have taken Adderall. Please consult your doctor or call 911 if you experience any of the following:

  • Heart problems, such as a rapid heartbeat, high blood pressure, stroke, or heart attack
  • Hallucinations or delusions
  • Agitated or aggressive behaviors.
  • A severe allergic reaction.

 

What Makes Vyvanse and Adderall Different?

Many people prefer to take Vyvanse over Adderall because this medication is known to last longer in the body. The main reason is that the ingredient, lisdexamfetamine, takes time to be converted to active amphetamine. A single dose of Vyvanse may last for up to 14 hours, which is why this medication can affect people’s quality of sleep or ability to fall asleep.

There is also the concern of abuse when it comes to prescription stimulants. Adderall is a known drug of abuse, especially by college students who may take it in an attempt to stay awake to study. It works quickly and can produce a fast high in people who do not have a diagnosis of ADHD. But the same is not true for Vyvanse, which takes longer to start working in the body. Vyvanse is also unable to be injected or inhaled, unlike Adderall.

People who are prescribed Adderall may need to take this medication more than once a day, depending on how it works for them. Vyvanse and Adderall XR last much longer, although people who take Adderall XR may need an additional short-acting stimulant medication to enhance its effectiveness.

 

Vyvanse Vs. Adderall: Which Medication is More Effective?

It can be hard to determine which medication – Adderall or Vyvanse – is the most effective for treating ADHD. Everyone is different, and what works well for one person might not work as well for another. That said, both of these medications are effective for treating ADHD as well as the other conditions for which they are prescribed.

 

Medication Interactions for Vyvanse and Adderall

It is very important to tell your doctor about all of the medications, herbs, and supplements you take. Any of these can interact with Vyvanse or Adderall, which can cause significant side effects.

If you take Adderall, your doctor needs to know about:

  • Any medications you are taking for depression, especially MAOIs.
  • Any medications you take for blood pressure.
  • Any cold or allergy medications you take that are decongestants.
  • History of cardiac problems
  • History of substance abuse

If you take Vyvanse, make sure your doctor knows about:

  • If you are taking any MAOIs.
  • Your full list of medications, including prescription and over-the-counter drugs
  • Any history of heart or blood pressure problems
  • History of substance abuse
  • Psychiatric history

 

The Rx Advocates Can Help You Pay for Vyvanse

At The Rx Advocates, we know that many people need to take Vyvanse for ADHD or the other conditions it can treat. Vyvanse can be quite expensive, even for people who have health insurance. Because of its cost, people may be hesitant to take it simply because they are not affordable.

We can help in cases like these. Our program offers financial help through patient assistance programs, and many people are eligible to participate, based on their yearly incomes. We believe that no one should have to choose between their quality of life and paying for the cost of prescription medications that they need.

If you or your child have been prescribed Vyvanse, and you are struggling to, we may be able to help you. Please contact us today to learn more about our program and to check your eligibility.

 

External Sources: 

  1. Medical News Today: Adderall (amphetamine/dextroamphetamine). Available at https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/326219#professional-information
  2. Medical News Today: Vyvanse Vs. Adderall: What to Know. Available at https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/325311
  3. Medical News Today: Vyvanse Side Effects. Available at https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/vyvanse#side-effects.
  4. Medical News Today: What is Adderall? Available at https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/325311#adderall.
  5. Medical News Today: Adderall Side Effects. Available at https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/326219#side-effects.
  6. National Library of Medicine: Adderall Abuse on College Campuses: A Comprehensive Literary Review. Available at https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22694135/
  7. Drugs.com: Adderall (amphetamine/dextroamphetamine) Interactions. Available at https://www.drugs.com/drug-interactions/amphetamine-dextroamphetamine,adderall.html/
  8. Drugs.com: Vyvanse (lisdexamfetamine) Interactions. Available at https://www.drugs.com/drug-interactions/lisdexamfetamine,vyvanse.html
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